Crime prevention program up against funding crisis

There’s an audible intake of breath as officer Anthony Stewart pulls out the black replica pistol.

If he did not have the class’s attention before, he does now.

Simple possession of a firearm like this will get you 10 years in prison, he tells the students. Use it in a crime and you’re looking at 20 years. You can kiss your youth goodbye.

More gasps.

The message is clear: In the long term, guns do not pay.

The police firearms expert was one of seven speakers, including drug counselors, gang specialists and prison officers, delivering an anti-crime message to John Gray High School students at the Family Life Centre on Friday.

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The event, organized by the Youth Anti-Crime Trust, is viewed as an impactful way of using real-world experts to reach teens who may be at risk of getting involved in crime.

But organizers say a lack of stable funding means Friday’s event will be the last.

Bonnie Anglin, chairwoman of Youth ACT, said the charity needs $20,000 annually to put on four events. She said government had contributed some funding on an ad-hoc basis to the crime prevention days held so far, but the event needs a more consistent source of cash.

“This is the only crime prevention program there is,” said Ms. Anglin, who says she agreed to organize the events following a request from the previous government based on recommendations from the National Security Council.

“We constantly hear about new courts, a new prison, new security cameras, but there is no national crime prevention strategy. None of the recommendations [from] all the reports that have been done have been implemented.

“They spend a lot of money to catch criminals, to get legal aid and to lock them up, but there is no money to get them on the right track in the first place.
“Why not spend some money to reduce the numbers going into Northward? Maybe then we won’t need more police and a bigger prison.”

Since the first anti-crime day in May 2013, Youth ACT has organized 10 such events, delivering presentations to students in different year groups at all three Cayman Islands high schools.

The events each cost $5,000 to organize. Government has funded three of them. The other seven were backed by sponsors including Appleby, Rotary, Cayman National Bank and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Each time an event is planned, Ms. Anglin says she has to write a new grant proposal and go cap in hand to government and businesses looking for funds.

She has asked for a purchase agreement with government, guaranteeing $20,000 a year in funding to host four events annually, but has received no response.

She said the board members of Youth ACT all have full-time jobs and can only do so much fundraising to support something that should be a national priority.

At Friday’s event, Year 8 students from John Gray rotated through seven presentations.

In one classroom, Dr. Elma Augustine, a clinical psychologist, talked to students about the impact of drugs and alcohol on their brain and physical health.

In another presentation, Detective Patrick Beersingh talked about the reality of gang life. In other events, magistrates and even prisoners have talked to students about the impact and consequences of crime.

“It has a bit more impact to hear it from people like us who have been through it and can talk about our own personal experiences,” said Mitchell Exctain, a former crack cocaine addict turned pastor.

Brent Hydes, of the Hope for Today halfway house, spoke alongside Pastor Exctain about the impact of drug addiction on life, career and family.

Mr. Hydes, himself a reformed drug addict, said, “We really can’t stop anyone from taking drugs. What we can do is carry the message of the danger and the consequences.

“It is essential for young people to have the message.”

Anthony Stewart, the police officer who gave the presentation on guns, says children are receptive to the messages being delivered.

“I think they listen to me more than a parent or a teacher because of my position. I can command their attention.

“I let them know about the penalties and the consequences [of] being involved with guns and try to really bring it home to them. It is really an eye opener to them.”

Christen Suckoo, chief officer of the Ministry of Education, said the ministry had made a contribution to the cost of the event over the past two years and was prepared to continue that funding. He did not say how much, but Youth ACT says the ministry has made two $5,000 donations, while the Ministry of Home Affairs has made one $5,000 donation over the two-and-a-half years the events have been running.

Crime prevention program up against funding crisis

Dr. Elma Augustine, a clinical psychologist, talks to students about the impact of drugs and alcohol on their brain and physical health. – Photo: James Whittaker
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  1. I think that this programs are good and should be done in all schools every month , and the parents should also attend. The Government refuse to help fund the crime program, sounds like they want the crime to continue and get bigger.

  2. I live in Ohio in the u.s.we have the same problems that you have,you are not alone. Crime prevention is every ones concern. If your government does not want to help with educating your youth then you have a big problem. The way they throw money around $20,000 is a small price for the education of the youth of the Cayman islands. Keep up the good work and you will see the fruit of your effort down the road.

  3. The education of our young people is the future of the country. This type of presentation is part of the education that our youth need. I truly hope government considers fully supporting this program.
    I believe Mr Christen Suckoo will continue this program in the schools.

  4. This is a cause worth supporting by the government.

    Crime is the killer of our vital tourist industry.

    It is the cause of increased costs for everyone as businesses will pass on the cost of increased security and insurance.

    It makes everyone fearful of their personal security.